Contentious trusts and probate in Scotland

Brodies LLP

Mark Stewart leads the contentious trusts practice at Brodies LLP, drawing on his experience as the firm’s head of its personal and family team, while Alan Barr, head of the firm’s personal tax planning team, focuses on trust disputes with complex tax issues. Christine O’Neill has significant experience of acting to remove trustees, strike down contested wills, and establish adult incapacity. The practice is well-versed in handling complex disputes concerning the estates of high net worth individuals, and has considerable experience in cases where contested assets are found in multiple jurisdictions. Norman Kennedy and Angela McCulloch, both based in Glasgow, advise wealthy individuals and high-value companies respectively. Susanne Batchelor is adept at handling cases with an international aspect.

Practice head(s):

Mark Stewart

Testimonials

‘Whenever we need advice on Scottish law in the contentious probate and trusts field, our first port of call would be Brodies. They are very user-friendly, responsive and know their stuff.’

‘Susanne Batchelor, ably assisted by Nicola Neal, are real standout individuals in terms of their customer service and knowledge of the law.  They are very responsive and keep us informed, which enables us to provide a very joined up answer to our clients where they are providing advice on Scottish law and ourselves on English law.’

‘Brodies LLP are an excellent firm with highly technical lawyers.  They are thought of as the leading private client firm in Scotland.’

‘Angela McCulloch is highly organised, very technically able and lovely to deal with.’

Gillespie Macandrew LLP

The contentious trusts practice at Gillespie Macandrew LLP has experience of a wide range of disputes. The team negotiated with HMRC on behalf of several high-value estates in 2019 in order to attain IHT reductions and amendments, with John McArthur having a particular focus in this area. Practice head Agnes Mallon focuses on complex estates with multi-jurisdictional assets, and requiring specialist knowledge of judicial factories. Eilidh G Adams also has considerable experience in working on matters with a foreign element, both in terms of assets and in terms of the registered domiciles of claimants and the deceased. John B Stirling, a solicitor advocate, focuses on legacies and multiple poindings, with experience in advising both public and private trusts on both sides of the border. Associate Sarah-Jane Macdonald is another name to note. In 2019, the firm advised on a number of complex disputes between siblings, contested charitable donations, and business separations.

Practice head(s):

Agnes Mallon

Testimonials

‘The team at Gillespie Macandrew have a breadth of knowledge and expertise that makes them stand out as a leader in this area. The size of the team, ably assisted by tax experts and an experienced dispute resolution team, ensures a high level of service at a cost level below the big commercial firms.’

‘Eilidh Adams offers dedication, commitment, sound knowledge and excellent service.’

‘John Stirling is the ne plus ultra of lawyers and possesses all the attributes required to resolve contentious and complex issues. He is able to remove all of a client’s anxieties with his combination of an acute intellect, shrewd, concise advice and a most personable, attentive manner.’

‘Sarah-Jane Macdonald impresses with her personable nature, thorough understanding of the issues at hand and proactive approach.

‘John McArthur impresses with his expert knowledge on tax and his ability to provide solutions to complex problems for his clients.’

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser’s contentious trusts practice focuses primarily on high-value and complex cases. The firm has extensive experience in matters related to the conduct and responsibilities of executors, acting both on their behalves, and for other beneficiaries of estates. The firm has advised on disputes between siblings, handled the division of assets held abroad, effected sales of assets and company shares, and both challenged and defended amendments to wills. Richard McMeeken, joint head of the practice, is a solicitor advocate and part of the firm’s commercial litigation team. Sue Hunter, joint practice head and also head of the firm’s private client division and finance and investment team, focuses on the tax implications of contested trust matters. Donna Brennan leads the team in Glasgow, and has expertise in incapacity issues, guardianships, and powers of attorney. Nick Ross, also based in Glasgow, is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Richard McMeeken; Sue Hunter

Other key lawyers:

Donna Brennan; Nick Ross

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Shepherd and Wedderburn has particular expertise on matters where the potential negligence of the initial counsel has played a role in subsequent disputes, in particular where this has overlapped with the rights and responsibilities of executors. Bolstered by the wider firm’s impressive corporate team, the team is also experienced in disputes concerning international assets, and heritable property tied up in partnerships and private companies. The firm has successfully challenged wills on the bases of undue influence, incapacity, tenor, and potential fraudulence. Christopher McGill and Elaine Brailsford lead the team, focusing on tax and trust planning and litigation respectively. Malcolm Rust, head of the private client practice, advises on wills and power of attorney, while Greig Honeyman is well-versed in managing sibling disputes. Douglas Sinclair, made up to partner in April 2019, focuses on rural clients. Gillian Campbell, who moved to the firm in April 2019 from Burnett & Reid, heads the firm’s private client team in Aberdeen.

Testimonials

‘The firm has an excellent crossover between litigation and private client solicitors. Accordingly, there is technical expertise and tactical expertise. This sets the team apart.’

‘Elaine Brailsford is a partner of renown, with comprehensive knowledge and skills in litigation.’

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern’s contentious trusts practice is well-balanced between seeking to defend and to amend wills and trusts. Notably, the firm is practised in constraining executors on behalf of other beneficiaries. ‘Very experienced’ practice head Katrina Lumsdaine has a strong track record in rectifying and amending wills, and notably achieved a rare judgment of personal liability against an executor who had failed to discharge their obligations. Catriona Watt is experienced in matters of incapacity, and has successfully challenged wills believed to have been made on the basis of undue influence. Associate Liam Smith is noted by clients for his ‘good eye for detail’.

Practice head(s):

Katrina Lumsdaine

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Liam Smith

Testimonials

‘Anderson Strathern has built up an enviable practice due to its client base and with the involvement of litigation solicitors. It stands out as one of the few firms which provides a contentious probate practice in Scotland.’

‘Katrina Lumsdaine is very experienced, sees litigation strategy clearly and objectively.’

‘Liam Smith has a good eye for detail, is efficient, responds quickly and communicates well.’

Key clients

Harper, Robertson and Shannon

Office of the Public Guardian

Work highlights

  • Acted for the executors in the first case in Scotland to rectify a Will under the new Succession (Scotland) Act 2016.
  • Acted on behalf of Support our Paras, a named residuary beneficiary in the aill of the late Gregory William Hughes.

Murray Beith Murray

Murray Beith Murray primarily handles disputes where the heritable property is in the form of partnerships and companies with complex tax arrangements. The firm has acted in sensitive cases, where it has been instructed to establish blood relations on the behalf of claimants, and has secured settlements between disputing siblings. The team has also worked on mandates concerning proving the tenor of disputed wills. Andrew Paterson leads the team, and focuses on asset protection. Senior partner Hugh Younger, a specialist in rural property, is a key member of practice, while Peter Shand , head of the firm’s private client group, handles tax matters.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Paterson

Other key lawyers:

High Younger; Peter Shand

Testimonials

‘I have been very impressed by Andrew Paterson. I sought his help to resolve issues surrounding my late father’s estate. From our first meeting, Andrew has been friendly, open and understanding, yet always professional and respectful. He listened carefully to the history and background of the case and was able to understand and empathise with my grievances. He laid out the possible remedies very clearly and explained the advantages and risks of each approach. He further helped me by stating how he would personally act if in my position. Having agreed strategy, he took a very logical and systematic approach to handling the issues. He has always been impressively responsive, acknowledging and answering emails rapidly and acting rapidly when issues arose. All his letters and emails have been examples of concision and clarity. His knowledge of and memory for the details of the case were equally impressive. After two years of stagnation, Andrew was able to move the executry to what is now essentially completion. Andrew has demonstrated to me that there are solicitors who know how to and want to do their job well and can and do treat their clients with respect and humanity.’

Turcan Connell

Turcan Connell’s contentious trusts practice is headed up by Peter Littlefield and David Ogilvy. Littlefield specialises in contentious probate and executry disputes, including cases concerning capacity of the deceased and inheritance disputes predicated on prior gifts made during the deceased’s lifetime. Ogilvy leads the firm’s dispute resolution practice, and chiefly focuses on high net worth individuals and their children, including cases of significant complexity. Scott Hunter is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Peter Littlefield; David Ogilvy

Other key lawyers:

Scott Hunter

Testimonials

‘Their knowledge of Scottish law, their promptness and courtesy when dealing with multiple charities, their efforts to keep sending updates as matters progress and their understanding of the charity sector and its dynamics all make this team standout, as well as their willingness to discuss legal matters and share knowledge, including organising ad hoc workshops for our staff.’

‘From a client’s perspective, the team are well briefed and communications are seamless.’

‘Very accessible and sensible advice.’

‘I value Turcan Connell’s solicitors for being knowledgeable and always willing to discuss legal matters we may be faced with. They’re just a pleasure to work with. Working together, I appreciated their patience in explaining options and honesty in discussing issues.’

‘Peter Littlefield is outstanding. He gave excellent advice, and carried out his duties with dignity and honesty. In addition, he gave personal advice which was invaluable to me, and was given freely, which was above and beyond. I cannot thank him enough. His team obviously respect him highly, and are fully behind him. First class service.’

Work highlights

  • Intervention order to make a change to executors appointed in terms of Will. First of its kind – an application seeking to change an adult’s will where that change is administrative and has not happened before.